SPAIN’S intelligence chief, Paz Esteban, has been fired by Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, over the hacking of mobile phones belonging to Catalan politicians.

Esteban, 64, became the first woman to head the CNI in July 2019, firstly on an interim basis before getting the job permanently less than a year later.

Tuesday’s move comes after Esteban admitted last week in a closed-door session of Congress that her agency had legally hacked the phones of several Catalan separatists after receiving judicial permission.

Last month, Canada’s digital rights group Citizen Lab said more than 60 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement had been targets of Pegasus spyware made by Israel’s NSO Group.

Though it did not say who was behind it, Citizen Lab said the use of such technology would have to come at a ‘government level’.

The Catalan ERC party, normally a staunch supporter of Sanchez’s minority left-wing government, withdrew support last month amidst the revelations.

It meant that a key €15 billion package to boost the economy was only secured by a single vote, courtesy of a last-minute decision by a Basque party to back it.

It was revealed last week that phones belonging to Pedro Sanchez and Defence Minister, Margarita Robles, were hacked by Pegasus spyware last year used by an ‘external power’.

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